You heard the rumblings here last week about the Obama administration looking into administratively rewriting their signature law one more time to benefit those who can’t use their PlaceboCare exchange website by 2/15/2014. Yesterday, they made it official. From the AP:
The extension — granted for 2014 only — addresses confusion that was created when the administration set the first open enrollment period under the law from Oct. 1-March 31.
The problem was that health insurance coverage typically starts on the first day of a given month, and it takes up to 15 days to process applications. So somebody signing up March 16 — well within the open enrollment period — wouldn’t get coverage until April 1, thereby risking a penalty for being uninsured part of the year.
While there is a limited authority for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to grant individual waivers from the ta…er…penalty, the key word is “limited”. Specifically, that authority extends only to those who have “no affordable qualified health plan available through the Exchange, or the individual’s employer, covering the individual”, or to those covered by the other, specified exemptions from the individual mandate. Mere “glitches” and general failures of the exchange website do not qualify as a complete lack of available plans.